Tuesday, 2 November 2004
Heavy Goods Vehicles.
Ivor Callely (Minister of State, Department of Transport; Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
Supercubes and other similar height vehicles can, in comparison to lower vehicles, present additional challenges, particularly with regard to road safety, rail safety and environmental damage. However, they differ essentially from road haulage vehicles in general only by reason of their greater than usual height. This difference gives rise to concerns that the use of such vehicles, combined with certain height constraints such as those imposed by bridges, tunnels, street lighting etc. on certain routes, poses inherent safety risks. As a consequence, the research to date is mainly concerned with the nature and extent of that risk by establishing the current number of supercubes in use and likely future penetration of such vehicles into the overall haulage fleet.
Two vehicle height surveys of HGVs using Dublin Port have been carried out by the Dublin Port Company and the National Institute of Transport Logistics, respectively. The results of both surveys indicate that only a limited number of trucks, between 0.6% and 1.7%, are over 4.65 metres in height. I will arrange to provide a copy of the report of each survey for the Deputy.
As a result of its geographical base, this research may not be definitive in terms of national use of high vehicles. Nevertheless, it provides a good basis on which to extrapolate the national usage by reference to the share of national imports and exports handled through Dublin Port. In this regard, it is the view of both Dublin City Council and the National Roads Authority that most of the vehicles using Dublin Port will be no higher than 4.65 metres. On that basis, the overall proportion of the national road haulage fleet accounted for by supercubes is unlikely to be substantial.
The collection of statistics on the transport of goods in, into and out of Ireland is done on a weight basis rather than a volume basis and records of vehicle dimensions such as height are not collected. I understand that researchers and policy-makers face similar constraints with research on vehicle characteristics in other jurisdictions. I have met a number of road hauliers who have provided statistics which differ greatly from those to which I referred.
In a reply to a number of parliamentary questions today on the matter of a vehicle height limit, I am committed to early public consultation on the subject with a view to bringing forward measures to deal with the risks involved in using supercubes and vehicles of similar height. To this end, a consultation paper is being prepared by my Department which will deal with a range of issues, including road and rail safety, business competitiveness, environmental considerations, implications for infrastructure, alternatives to a specific height limit and legal options for dealing with a specific height limit.